The Honda Jazz isn’t a car to send petrolheads swooning but the fact that it has been around - across four generations - for more than 20 years is a clear sign that it’s doing something right.
Despite a dowdy image and uninspiring looks it has found a faithful following among buyers more interested in reliability and practicality than driving thrills and in that capacity it’s easy to see the appeal.
The key to the Jazz’s success is undoubtedly its brilliant packaging that turns something the size of a Corsa or Yaris into a remarkably spacious and practical vehicle. Despite only being four metres long, there is easily space for four adults in the Jazz thanks to its tall roof and upright seating and there are endless storage pockets and cup holders around the cabin for odds and ends.
For larger items, the boot is a decent 304 litres but the Jazz’s real magic is in the flexibility of the rear seats. Like any hatchback, the rear seat backs fold down but in the Jazz they lie totally flat rather than at an angle. That creates a flat load area of up to 844 litres right through. Alternatively, they can fold up against the seat back to create a wide space from floor to ceiling for taller upright items. And you can load the car without difficulty thanks to the 90-degree opening rear doors.
The Tardis-like abilities have long been a strong point of the Jazz but this latest model adds an appealing aesthetic to the mix that helps elevate it further. The interior is unique to the Jazz but shares a lot of its look and feel with the larger Civic and the Honda e EV. It has a refreshing mixture of tactile fabric and leather finishes on the seats and dashboard, glossy cream colour plastic trim and knurled metal-effect touch points. It’s not quite as eye-catching as a Fabia or Corsa, but it’s more interesting than a Yaris and feels built to last.
Entry-level SE models don’t get the part-leather upholstery or a nine-inch touchscreen but they become standard from SR trim and above, along with alloy wheels, parking sensors and wireless Apple CarPlay. Above that EX brings a heated steering wheel, privacy glass, keyless entry and Garmin sat nav in addition to touches such as adaptive cruise control and LED headlights which are standard even on base-spec SE cars.
Like the name suggests, the range-topping EX Style we’re testing is essentially a styling pack for the regular EX trim level. It adds unique two-tone 16-inch alloy wheels, a black roof, “Chrystal Black” gloss mirror caps and roof spoiler plus embossed side mouldings. It does add a little more visual appeal to the Jazz’s rather plain Jane looks but I’m not convinced it’s worth the extra outlay. Especially since it doesn’t add any more equipment to the EX’s generous specification.
While there’s a choice of four trim levels (plus the Crosstar), Jazz buyers only have one engine option - the rather brilliant 1.5-litre eHEV full hybrid. Under heavy throttle it makes a pretty unpleasant thrashy sounds but that’s the only real negative. Its 109bhp is enough to shift the Jazz along at a decent pace and the way the hybrid system manages the petrol engine and two electric motors is impressively smooth and frugal. By always starting in EV mode and through clever use of the e-motors even at higher speeds, the Jazz returns an official 61.4mpg and we saw within 0.5mpg of that over a week of mixed driving. We even reached a ridiculous 73mpg on one 60-mile cross-country trip.
It’s not hard to achieve such efficiency given that the Jazz doesn’t encourage spirited driving. But a lack of driver engagement is hardly a major problem for a car like the Jazz and buyers will be reassured by its steady and secure feel even at motorway speeds. They might be less happy by the slightly jittery low speed ride but it’s not so bad as to be a dealbreaker.
The Jazz is one of those cars designed not to inflame passions but to do a job, and it does it remarkably well. Its blend of compact exterior, surprisingly roomy and attractive interior and frugal but usable hybrid powertrain make it an easy car to recommend, I’m just not sure the EX Style trim adds enough to justify its existence.
Honda Jazz EX Style
Price: £26,850 (£27,050 as tested); Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol/electric full hybrid; Power: 109bhp; Torque: 187lb ft; Transmission: E-CVT automatic; Top speed: 109mph; 0-62mph: 9.5 seconds; Economy: 61.4mpg; CO2 emissions: 105g/km